By Neus Ferrando Gilabert BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 02/13/2015

According to a study published in the Human Reproduction fertility journal, the genetic variation of a gene involved in the cholesterol regulation can influence female fertility.

In order to discover gene variability, a blood test capable of determining female fertility, and that has been tested in mice, has been developed.

The presence of cholesterol in the bloodstream is influenced by several factors. Among them, there are several genetic factors, implied in the appearance of cholesterol receptors. One of these receptors is the scavenger class B type 1 (SCARB1). A group of researchers at the John Hopkins University in the United States has found a connection between the expression variations of the encoded gene and infertility.

The study, conducted and published in the Human Reproduction journal, has shown that this gene is also involved in the process of progesterone production in women. For this reason, gene variations have been linked to fertility.

Researchers analyzed oocytes and follicular fluid of 274 women undergoing IVF treatments. 207 of these women had already undergone the full cycle of IVF, including the embryo transfer. 9 of these women had a mutation in the SCARB1 and none of them had gotten pregnant after the IVF cycle. Furthermore, low levels of progesterone, which is considered an essential hormone to maintain pregnancy in its early stages, were also observed in these 9 women.

This study has provided clues about the genetic cause of some infertility types and about the available treatments. For this reason, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has proposed a treatment tested in genetically modified mice. This treatment is a cholesterol medicine that could, indirectly, treat some types of infertility.

Authors and contributors

 Neus Ferrando Gilabert
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH). Experience managing Embryology and Andrology Labs at Centro Médico Manzanera (Logroño, Spain). More information